The most significant question mark going into the Grizzlies season has been Jaren Jackson Jr. and his availability. After a season where he averaged 16.3 points on 42% from the floor and led the league in blocks with a Grizzlies single-season record of 177, an offseason foot injury will cause Jackson Jr. to miss the early part of the season. When the injury was announced in July, he was given a 4-6 month timetable, but he seems to be closer to the four-month range. Based on everything I have seen coming from Jackson and the Grizzlies, you should expect him to be back before December. That would mean he would miss 15-20 games to start the season.
The Grizzlies have a pretty easy schedule to start the season, so it should give Jaren a chance to get back to 100%. Jackson is already getting some work on the court, as we saw in the Grizzlies' open practice this past weekend, which is also a good sign for his health, and we will know more about his status in the coming weeks.
Jackson Jr. will no doubt be inserted back into the starting lineup when he returns. As well as Santi Aldama has played in the preseason, he simply can't do the same things Jaren can on both ends. He will also be asked to be the clear 3rd scoring option behind Ja Morant and Desmond Bane, which I think will be the best thing for him and allow him to focus on his best end of the floor, his defense.
What Jaren does well
Starting with the good for Jackson, he earned a 1st team all-defense selection and was top 5 in defensive player of the year voting last season. As a rim protector, he was elite — allowing just 49.6% shooting from within 6 feet of the basket, which was top 5 in the league last season. He also led the league in total blocks and blocks per game, while leading a Grizzlies defense that was top 5 in defensive rating. He can still improve on this end, but he is already one of the elite defenders in the NBA.
On top of his rim protection is the ability to guard multiple positions on switches. I distinctly remember times when players such as Luka Doncic tried to get a switch onto Jaren but were not able to score. They didn't try to pick on him very often after that. His quickness at his size allows him to be one of the most versatile players in the NBA on the defensive end. It also does not allow Jaren to be played off the court when other teams go small, which has been a problem for many bigs around the league.
Jaren has also shown the ability to get to the rim by putting the ball on the floor, a luxury for someone his size. He is quick enough to beat bigger defenders off the dribble and strong enough to beat smaller defenders in the paint. He is a matchup nightmare on most nights, but he has to be that every night to get the Grizzlies to their ultimate goal.
Where Jaren can improve
In terms of where he can improve, Jackson Jr. will have to be more consistent offensively for the Grizzlies to get to the next level. That starts with his offensive efficiency overall. Last season, Jackson Jr. shot his lowest percentage from behind the arc of his career at 32%, down from 39% in his last fully healthy season. He did improve to 38% in the playoffs, which is a good sign for the future.
There are also times in games when Jaren must be more aggressive in attacking the basket, both off the dribble and in the post. Besides his post-hook, Jackson Jr. has not developed his post-game as well as you would have hoped, but he definitely has the size, athleticism, and finishing ability to be better in this area. His post touches also need to be a more integral part of the offense, especially when he has mismatches against smaller power forwards.
On the defensive end, the only area of concern is Jackson's fouling, which was apparent in the first-round series vs the Timberwolves. When Jaren is on the court, he is one of the best defenders in the NBA. The only problem is that his foul problems keep him off the floor at critical parts of the game. Jackson has improved and actually averaged the lowest fouls per game of his career (3.5) last season, but he still needs to chase fewer blocks and avoid fouls away from the basket.
Jaren Jackson Jr. is already one of the best defenders in the NBA and has the potential to be much better on both ends of the floor. It's disappointing that he wasn't able to have a healthy off-season after a year where he played the most games (78) of his career, but he seems to have recovered pretty well.
If he can put it all together, the Memphis Grizzlies will be an extremely difficult team to beat.